Nick cannot plan ahead, but is convinced to do so after imagining himself as a drifter or a bum.
POINTS OUT IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING FOR FUTURE. NICK, A TEEN BOY, OBSERVES THIS APPROACH IN SOME FRIENDS & NOTICES HOW MUCH MORE SUCCESSFUL THEY APPEAR TO BE. HE APPLIES IT TO HIMSELF & NOTICES A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER IN HIS OWN LIFE. FANTASY SEQS.
Ken Smith sez: "Nick Baxter" is a sloppy teen with greasy hair and a poorly-knotted necktie. His clean-cut friend, "Don," tells him that he'll end up on skid row if he doesn't come up with some detailed plans for his future. Nick's hammy acting make this a fun film. The fantasy sequences -- where Nick imagines himself as a bum and then a successful businessman -- are high points. "Terry," the athletic star, went on to play the lead role in Going Steady? Nick plays a similar doofy character with exactly the same name in the following year's What To Do On A Date.
"Who are the people most likely to succeed?" asks the narrator. Well, not Nick Baxter, a senior in high school and slacker in the making, who can't plan ahead. Whether it's building a table in shop class or planning his life's future, he's clueless and, unless he gets his act together, destined to be a bum.
Let's assume for just a moment that Nick is a real person. Since this 1950 film shows him at age 17 or 18, he would have been born in 1932 or 1933 Ñ the two hardest years of the Great Depression. This makes him one of the left-behinds Ñ one of the Depression children who didn't get to fight in the war, a sort of middle child between two groups of people who underwent profound experiences completely beyond their control. Is it any wonder that, for Nick, reality bites?
Of course, the other, perhaps more valid, argument is that Nick just doesn't understand what it takes to make it in the fabulous Fifties. Don: "To succeed in something, you have to have a purpose, and make plans for reaching it, and work at it all the time." Nick: "Sounds crazy to me." But Nick's friends get the message, and even Nick sees their futures are pretty much assured already. When Don blithely tells Nick that he's "least likely to succeed," and well on the way to becoming a drifter or a bum, this is the kick in the pants Nick has been waiting for. "That could be me...nothing but a bum."
Nick finds a worthy metaphor for all of his unfinished business in the school shop. Realizing that drawing up a plan is necessary to building a table that can stand on its four legs, he decides to draw up a plan for his own life. "Plans...sketches...measurements...that's what I have to do with my own future...I've got to look ahead and imagine...what I want it to be like...". He is shortly back on course and in command of his future, and fantasizes himself telling his father that he's been elected chairman of the "Community Club." "Yes, I want a future that's something like that. I want to be happy. Be somebody. Have a good job. Friends. A home. A wife and kids. But how do I get there? If that's my purpose, how do I reach it. How? A detailed plan. How to achieve my purpose. And I'd better be getting at it right now."
Although Nick does lack a detailed plan, he's already got something much more important Ñ a sense of middle-class entitlement peculiar to that postwar period. This is the feeling that the world is made to help him achieve his goals, that it can offer him what he needs if he can only figure out how to take it. I'm not so sure Nick (or even Don) would feel the same way in the 1990s. What's going to take the place of a "future that's something like that?"
This film represents a whole culture of vocational guidance, a panorama of alternative futures for the young that has given life to thousands of books, films and training aids. In this visually minded century, these publications have focused on visual means of expressing abstract ideas like planning ahead, avoiding vocational deadends, and measuring progress towards concrete objectives. But whether it's little cartoons about the "steps to success" or parables taking place in the carpentry shop, the prejudices and kitschiness of this culture have hardly been explored and urgently await the attention of historians.
CU newspaper masthead indicating 'Central High School Bugle' (headline indicates "Pick Most Likely to Succeed"); camera pulls back revealing man's hands holding newspaper.
MCU young man (in woodshop?) browsing newspaper, he turns and sets newspaper on table and continues to look at it; other young man (wearing shop apron) painting lamp table as young man scratches his head as though thinking; They speak to each other, and young man stops painting and approaches young man.
MCU young man sitting as other young man stands over him while holding paint brush; young man sitting holds up paper, sets it back down, young man on picks it up, looks at it, sets it down on table.
CU newspaper masthead and photo, 3 teens pictured (2 boys and 1 girl).
MCU young man holding electric cord, sets it down and begins to speak (blackboard and charts in BG).
MCU young woman approaching door indicating 'Club Room," she turns to speak directly to camera.
MCU young man hanging shirt in locker in locker room, turns to camera and speaks while straddling bench (wears basketball uniform #16).
MCU young men (one seated, the other with back to camera); one approaches other and turns toward camera; their conversation and focus is on newspaper.
MCU young man (wearing apron) stands and holds paint brush; approaches desk and leans on it.
MCU seated young man speaking.
MCU young man, standing, (wearing apron), speaking
MCU young man sitting
MS young man sitting, other standing; the young man who is standing walks over, leans against wooden table, he than walks over, begins painting again. Young man sitting stands up, walks toward camera speaking, making strange faces along with eye movements; he has hand in pocket, sloppily dressed, has big nose/ears, turns picks up paper, looks at it.
CU two pictures of boy and girl, camera zooms in on picture of boy, ruler covers up girl's picture.
MCU young man, working with scientific equipment and holding clip board on knees, stands up to closely examine equipment.
MCU woman standing at podium (American flag prominent) addressing audience (sign indicating "West Side Civic Association" in BG).
MCU young man shaking hands and greeting crowd (election posters in BG).
MCU young man holding paper, standing, turns, another can be seen putting lid on paint can, they speak to each other; young man walks around table, MCU two young men talking to each other, boy to right takes off apron slowly, folds it, sets it on table, approaches door, takes coat off rack, opens door, walks out.
MCU profile shot young man, turns, approaches camera, sad expression on face.
MS young man sitting on bed, smoking cigarette in run down room, throws cigarette on floor, stands up, approaches window, picks up
empty glass bottle, sets it back down, picks up package, unwraps it, begins to eat it while sitting back down on bed; camera
focuses on young man eating.
MS young man holding newspaper, looking around, talking to himself, approaches table, crunches up paper, throws it away, approaches table, begins putting table together, begins to nail it together,
it falls apart, he throw's down hammer, sits down, still speaking
to himself, picks up pencil, begins writing.
CU hand drawing picture; MCU young man looking down at paper;
CU drawing of table with measurements given to each part of table,
VS shots of each part of table drawn out; CU wood being carved; CU table top plans; CU of finished table top; VS shots of the process.
MCU finished table, young man (wearing apron) picks up table placing it on top of bench, he looks at it, smiling, hands on hips, picks up papers, looks at them, expressions of thought on face;
MCU profile shot young man thinking, speaks to himself, looks at paper.
MCU dirty boy wearing ripped clothes, eating bread.
MS man sitting at desk, woman standing over him, he is writing, stops, places pen into holder, hands paper to woman, she walks away, phone rings, man answers it; MCU man talking on phone; hangs up phone, leans back in chair with grin on face;(wearing suit).
MCU young man, wearing apron, sitting down, thinking expression on face, holding papers, shakes head, rubs face with finger; looks around room, places paper on bench, takes out pencil, he is speaking, holding pencil in hand, moves it along with what he says.
young man sitting on sofa, holding face with hand, holding book on lap, places book down, stands up, approaches old man sitting at desk, sits down next to him, they begin to speak.
MCU young man standing looking at poster, hands on hips, turns, sits down, opens books, takes pencil from ear.
MS group of teens standing together talking in front of door, dressed neatly; CU young man talking, wearing suit, laughs leaning head back; group of teens standing in front of door, they decide to enter.
MCU young man wearing apron, sanding wood, another comes into picture, he is speaking, unrolling sleeve, they speak to each other, boy takes off apron, walks to rack, hangs it up, other boy walks over to him, they are both standing by door, they both leave shutting door behind them.
FANTASY HUMOR SOCIAL GUIDANCE SELF-IMPROVEMENT STUDENTS BOYS TEENAGERS ADOLESCENTS GOALS FUTURE PLANNING GIRLS VAGRANTS HOBOS BUMS FAILURE IMAGINATION INFLUENCE WEALTH SUCCESS SHOP INDUSTRIAL ARTS TABLES CARPENTRY CONSTRUCTION EDUCATION BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS HIGH SCHOOL NARRATIVES
June 18, 2009 Subject:
It is never too early to get in the rat race!
While there is need to consider the future when you are in high school, there is no need to make teens feel like if they do not excell in everyting they will end up being a bum sitting on a bed in a flop house smoking a cigarette butt they found at the bus stop!
Remember when you would feel depressed as a teen and your mom would say, "Oh, my goodness! You are so silly! Don't you know your high scholl years are the happiest years you will ever have?" And, then you thought if this is the HAPPIEST, I think I will just die right now, because I don't want to know what could be worse!!!!
But, then after you got out of high school, you realized that your mom was full of poop and the world is NOTHING like high school and you are happier than you could ever have imagined!
This film is like that... telling teens, "Hey! You think you feel like a failure now??? Just keep on being a non-conformist and you are going to end up homeless and friendless and POOR!"
February 13, 2008 Subject:
February 12, 2008 Subject:
Planning Your Future
Having to have had my life's epiphany while in shop class, I can say in retrospect, that being a drifter in a seedy boarding house would have been a better career course. Trying to make a living out of shop projects is a tough way to go.
January 1, 2007 Subject:
A simplistic film
From what was shown of Nick's family, I don't think they would have let things go that far as to have their son's future so bleak as shown in the beginning.
What Nick needed was motivation- and that started when he, himself, realized he wanted a decent life as an adult. The scenes written seemed too contrived, but it may have worked for the 1950 teenagers viewing this film.
January 1, 2007 Subject:
That was the worst acting I've ever seen.
March 4, 2005 Subject:
How to be a Bum in Six Easy Lessons
Strange little film on planning ahead for your life. Nick has got to be one of the stupidest people I have seen in an educational film. One wonders why the filmmakers depicted him as being this dumb. Was the audience supposed to feel superior to him?
Essentially, what this film says is that if you don't plan ahead and study in school, you will become a bum. Interesting, because in the era that this film was made, there were plenty of good factory jobs available for slackers like Nick.
One other thing: how many shop teachers would let someone work on a project in a tie? Aren't there some educational films about what happens when you get your tie caught in woodworking equipment?
July 25, 2004 Subject:
strangely obtuse film on life planning
Nick's pal gushes platitudes about the need to have a purpose in life. The character of Nick is uninteresting and unrealistic because there's no reason for him not to fit in: he has no moral, intellectual or sexual traits. He's a tool like the front-runners in the school paper, minus their ambition. He's such a non-entity that even his chances of becoming the way-cool bum gnawing on bread in the suavely grungy boarding house are quite dicy.
The most entertaining bit is Nick's fantasy of his future life: in his tailored suit and store-bought haircut, he hands a female secretary the work that needs doing. He then goes in for a little career masturbation by calling his father to gloat over his stellar accomplishments.
Probably the most sensible idea in this film is expressed by "lazy Nick" when he says it's impossible to plan correctly because "How do we know what we'll be like in a few years?" After seeing this film, I needed a double scotch and to waste a few hours planning nothing and doing nothing useful at all.
July 20, 2004 Subject:
But what if I want to be a drifter, or bum?
Thick-as-a-brick Nick can't figure out why he's not picked as "most likely to succeed" even though he never does anything, and never aspires to do anything. Eventually he figures out, through the magic of wood shop, that he wants to be a high-powered executive and joins the math club. Seriously.
Several people have pointed out the delightful scene of Nick imagining himself as a bum, gnawing on a hunk of bread (the heel no less!), and I can but add my voice to the chorus. Must see.
November 14, 2003 Subject:
Nick is Not at All Intelligent
Nick is an extremely dimwitted highschol student at danger of becoming a "drifer, or maybe even a bum" if he can't figure out how to look into the future.
This film is absolutely hilarious.
January 16, 2003 Subject:
In this atypical Coronet guidance film, Nick, quite possibly the stupidest kid ever featured in any of these films, is so thick headed he doesnt even know what he'll do 10 minutes from now. Soon, as this is a Coronet film, he looks to the skies and listens to voices to tell him how to look ahead. He talks to himself as well, convinced, since this is Coronet film, that making a chart will solve everything. Soon of course, Nick becomes a well adjusted boy in school, and his problems are solved.
The actor playing Nick is screamlingly bad, which makes this film so much fun to watch. Highly reccomended!
October 7, 2002 Subject:
Benefits of Looking Ahead
Nick, the dorky teenager from What to Do on a Date, is just as clueless about career planning as he is about dating. After his "friend" warns Nick that he will probably turn out to be a bum the way he's going (and we see a great scene of an unshaven Nick gnawing on some stale bread in a cheap hotel room), Nick turns to the rickety table he's building in shop class, which falls apart when he tries to pound a nail into it. Nick finally figures out that he needs to make a plan for his table, and then it occurs to him that maybe he should make a plan for his life as well. This guy has to be the dorkiest, most clueless hero of any of these films. He never seems to know anything about anything. I wouldn't be surprised if later on he was in films called What to Do on Your Honeymoon, Benefits of Asking for a Raise, How to Talk to Your Teenagers, or What to Do After Retirement.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ***. Overall Rating: ****. Also available on Mental Hygiene and Our Secret Century, Vol. 3: The Behavior Offensive.